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In the Land of Believers: An Outsider's Extraordinary Journey into the Heart of the Evangelical Church

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3.42 of 5 stars 3.42  ·  rating details  ·  365 ratings  ·  90 reviews
Revealing their generosity and hopefulness, as well as their prejudice and exceptionalism, In the Land of Believers is a call for comprehending, rather than dismissing, the impassioned believers who have become so central a force in American life.
Audio CD, 11 pages
Published April 26th 2010 by Tantor Media (first published 2010)
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Kimberly
In the Land of Believers by Gina Welch is such a great story and is incredibly well written (more on that later). Gina, an atheist Yale grad from California, is intrigued by evangelicals and quite curious about their beliefs, way of life and commitment to the church. She decides to go undercover at Jerry Falwell’s Thomas Road Church in Virginia, where she joins a singles group called EPIC and goes on a missionary trip to Alaska. At first, she is confused and disoriented, unfamiliar with the bibl ...more
John
First, I want to say that, though I have little first hand knowledge of the evangelical scene, Falwell's church probably wasn't the best place to find out about it. The place seems like a cult to me from her description, with its rules and reliance upon conformity to such an extent. I had never heard of "The Sinner's Prayer" before, but they seem to see it as a Get-Out-of-Hell-Free-Card. She attends a "free dinner" for loyal members, that turns out a time-share-like shakedown for donations. Was ...more
Andrew Campbell
An altogether fascinating and through-and-through frustrating book.

I'm glad Ms. Welch took the time, thought, and made the personal sacrifice to get to know religious persons of another ilk and to be able to identify value in religious experience. Her book is peppered with shrewd and reasonable perspective on the harm of hit-and-run evangelism, the frequent hypocrisy of professed faith, and the casual meanness of the church-going. It is also, at times, laughably paranoid and judgmental- most of
...more
Mark
I found myself wondering why I'm attracted to these "outsiders trying to get a handle on Evangelical culture & practice" books... I speculated yesterday that it's because I (even though I grew up in Southern Baptist churches and have been in the ministry since the mid-80's) feel like an outsider sometimes myself.

A couple of quick thoughts before I wholeheartedly recommend reading the book:

- Thomas Road Baptist Church isn't a perfect snapshot of the Evangelical movement. Heck, it's not even a
...more
Stephanie
I found this book disturbing. Welch is a solid writer and she tells an okay if not overly drawn-out story. That being said, what she did is wrong. I’m not opposed to the going undercover part, but what gets me is the utter lack of respect she has for the culture of Evangelicals. Her decision to get baptized and to participate regularly in Communion—sacred acts for Believers—is completely demeaning and dehumanizing. Would she approve this approach for any other culture—would she think it okay to ...more
Marilyn
I could only get half way through this book. Ms. Welch is so caught up in her own ego and being a Yale alum, that it's hard to take her "insights" as objective.
I also had a hard time with the book since it really isn't about "Believers" and "The Evangelical Church" as she proclaims, but merely, Jerry Falwell's church and whatever local outcroppings she has come across. I find this extremely short sighted and wonder if she's ever gone to an Evangelical church in New York like Redeemer Presbyteri
...more
Ellen Keim
It's interesting that there was a similar book that came out the year before this one (The Unlikely Disciple: A Sinner's Semester at America's Holiest University. Were they both in the works at the same time? Did the authors know about each other's projects? Was it just a coincidence?

Whatever the circumstances, the premise for both is similar except that in this one the author goes undercover as a church-goer over a period of two years and in the other the author goes undercover as a student at
...more
Bookworm1858
In the Land of Believers by Gina Welch
Metropolitan Books, 2010
328 pages
Non-fiction; Religion; Memoir

Source: The library

Summary: Gina Welch undertook a journey in to the church founded by controversial preacher Jerry Falwell in order to understand evangelicals in comparison to her own Jewish/atheist liberal background.

Thoughts: I saw several reviews of this in the blogosphere and I enjoyed reading Kevin Roose's The Unlikely Disciple (which I recommend and read pre-blog), which seemed similar. His
...more
Lauren Hopkins
I loved Gina Welch's tales of going undercover at Thomas Road Baptist Church. As another Ivy League educated atheist with a curiosity about the Christian faith (and any religion, really) I was especially interested in seeing another's take on the evangelical world. I was very glad to see that Welch went in not to mock, but with an open mind (and heart) even though she had doubts. She does a great job describing people and events without judging; she manages to put aside any bias and ethnocentris ...more
Sarah Rosenberger
First of all, this journey isn't really as extraodinary or revolutionary as Welch thinks. Not only has it been done before, it's been done with the exact same subset of evangelicals (see: The Unlikely Disciple). Exposes or explorations of contemporary Evangelical Christianity have been around for years and publishers keep churning out more all the time. This book is just one more addition to that body of work.

So how does it compare to the others? I've read better. My biggest problem with this bo
...more
Kate
Sep 02, 2011 Kate rated it 2 of 5 stars
Shelves: faith
As a progressive Christian who currently attends an evangelical church, I was intrigued by the idea of Gina Welch’s book, but it only took a few chapters to become offended by the execution. She approaches her experiment of trying to figure out evangelicals as if she’s off to study chimps in Africa, oozing all the condescension of a Victorian explorer. Even after she finds that some of her fellow church members are actually nice people who think and can converse in full sentences, the patronizin ...more
Alli Rense
Growing up Protestant, I've always thought of Evangelicals as the "wrong" or "misguided" kind of Christians, and a label to push as far away as possible. I think, despite my own background and beliefs, I would've gone into the experiment with similar prejudices as Gina.

It was interesting to me to read because she would write with confusion about things I understood, like singing along with hymns with the words projected in front and people raising their hands, but then it would take a turn into
...more
Sandi
I read over 100 pages of this book, but just couldn't bring myself to waste any more time on it. I tried very hard to like it but the condescension was too much. The concept of an outsider trying to understand those she disdains is admirable, but she can't quite get over how smart she is compared with the quaint folks she's judging.
Her method of lying to fit in might fly for the church overall, but the individuals who befriended her seemed genuinely hurt. And evidently, she had no idea that you
...more
Donna Womer
I got nearly halfway through the book, but couldn't finish it. The idea was intriguing, but I got bored reading the details (which at points there were too plentiful) of a community I am very familiar with.
As for finding out about the author's journey and what she discovered, I didn't care to find out. Maybe it was a mistake for me to watch interviews of her on YouTube, as the fact that she lied and deceived so many people during her little project really began to bother me. After that, I got k
...more
Lissa
Gina Welch, in an attempt to gain a better understanding of evangelical Christians, pretends to be interested in learning about Christianity (later, when that gets her virtually nowhere, she pretends to be a convert and is even baptized). Although she never espouses the beliefs of Thomas Road Baptist Church (made famous because of its founder, Jerry Falwell, who dies during Ms. Welch's study), she does make some genuine friends and realizes that evangelicals aren't nearly as alien as she thought ...more
Robyn Stuber
While the author wrote very well, I am disturbed by the fact that she blatantly lied to and deceived so many people. I also did not feel that the book ended well, as she started out trying to answer a question and yet could not answer it or even give it closer.
Barbara
I like this book because the author, to her surprise, ended up liking the church members where she went undercover. Although she's not a believer herself, she writes about the people she meets with respect. The pace of the book is good, and the storyline compelling, so I felt pulled along and wanted to see what would happen next. I actually came away from the book with a more favorable picture of Jerry Falwell's church and its members than I started with, even though the book is presented as som ...more
Heather
Before I talk about my thoughts on this book, let me explain my own personal beliefs and where I was coming from when I decided to read it. You all know I’m Christian, right? But I’m not Baptist, nor am I a huge fan (or any kind of fan actually) of Jerry Falwell and his hateful ways. I think Christianity – and religion in general – should be a way to bring people together and show love, not tear people apart and preach hate at anyone who doesn’t agree or share the same “lifestyle”. I’ve been int ...more
Joe Bustillos
At about 71% through the book, I'm going to call this one "read." It pains me because I'm a strong advocate of the importance of "small drama" that can have profound change in someone's life, but I've had this book on my "currently reading" list for too long ... I guess I was hoping for something to happen and I don't have the patience to see this one through. I complete concur with the author's exploration into this other world of evangelicalism and american religion, there's a lot here to lear ...more
Elliot Ratzman
“I never imagined I would feel a kind of belonging. Because beyond basically appreciating my [Evangelical] friends as fellow human beings, I finally understood what it felt like to believe you knew something that had the power to improve the lives of others.” This from an atheist Jewish Yale grad from Berkeley. In sum: evangelicals are people too, surprise! For unclear reasons Gina Welch goes undercover at Jerry Falwell’s megachurch. She gets involve with a singles group, and a third of the book ...more
Andi
I ordered this book from the library after hearing about the controversy that the author created in order to write this book. Gina Welch, a liberal atheist from California, posed as a born-again Evangelical in order that she may discover what Evangelicals are really like. This did not go over very well in the Evangelical community despite the fact that she proclaims she had the best of intentions and simply wanted to shine a better light on them so that more people would understand their religio ...more
you know that you want my books ;)
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Michael Miller
Gina Welch is a good writer. Throughout the narrative of her two years at Thomas Road Baptist Church in Lynchburg, Virginia, she employs many well-crafted turns of phrase, at times humorous, poignant, and insightful. That she teaches writing comes as no surprise. She does overreach occasionally, but she managed to keep my interest throughout.

Before commenting on the substance of her book, I feel obligated to state that I am one of the evangelicals about who she writes. She tends, as happens so
...more
Michelle Newby
An Outsider's Extraordinary Journey Into the Heart of the Evangelical Church
By Gina Welch
Picador 333 pgs
978-0-8050-8337-8
Rating: 3.5

Gina Welch writes "...And you're never more like Christ than when you're forgiving the unforgivable."

She also writes "...You can see anything you want if you've already decided what you're looking at."

These are my favorite lines from Gina Welch's cultural experiment. Ms. Welch was raised a secular Jew by a single mother in Berkeley, California. She is a Yale graduat
...more
Russell
Wow! What a fantastic book!

Gina Welch was raised in a liberal atheist family in Berkeley, California. She never had to really confront religion until going to grad school in the American South, where she came face to face with the evangelical forms of Christianity. Fascinated by the fact that there were all these people whom she didn't understand, she embarked on a project to get to know them better. So she went undercover, pretending to be one of them, and spent nearly two years attending Jerry
...more
Tim Larison
Recently I came across Gina Welch’s insightful look into the evangelical church in her first book “In The Land Of Believers”

If a movie were to be made of earlier years it might be titled “I Was A Teenage Fundamentalist”! Yes in my younger days I was a conservative Bible believer. Over the years my spiritual outlook transformed to a much more open, loving, and inclusive world view. Gina’s book brought back memories of my fundamentalist past. She provides an interesting look into the Evangelical m
...more
Amanda
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Jim Crigler
Oct 08, 2013 Jim Crigler rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Evangelicals and their opponents
Recommended to Jim by: The White Horse Inn
A Jewish atheist from California goes undercover at an evangelical megachurch in central Virginia. What she found was not what she expected.

While never truly embracing Christianity, she was baptized, attended classes, went on a mission trip, and generally embedded herself in the life of the church. She learned about Feeling X, about the warmth of the people, about the shallowness of some of their solutions (all intellectual problems can be solved by throwing C.S. Lewis at them — she mentions thi
...more
Florinda
Trying to get a grasp of the forces driving much public opinion and political action during the last decade, Gina Welch decides to go to one of their sources: Thomas Road Baptist Church in Lynchburg, Virginia, founded by Rev. Jerry Falwell. Welch understands that she won't learn much approaching as a reporter or an outsider, so she decides to go within, presenting her secular-Jewish self as a prospective church member. It's a little dicey at first, but as Gina becomes part of the church's young- ...more
Rhonda
Chose this book because I thought it was a look into the world of evangelicals...I didn't realize it was an undercover investigation into their lives by an atheist, a very skeptical atheist,young Gina. It turned out to be quite enlightening, a very open look from the outside in, complete with sarcasm, criticism, and honesty!
She travels to Jerry Falwell's Thomas Road Baptist Church once, sometimes twice a week, to participate in classes and services, even goes on a mission trip to Alaska for a we
...more
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